Cuban Government Warns of the Brutal Rise of Dengue on the Island, but Hides the Figures

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), cases of dengue have increased by 300% in the first half of the year. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 9 September 2022 — In the hour and a half that the State television Roundtable program lasted, dedicated this Thursday — in its own words — to “provide comprehensive information about the dengue fever virus,” no one was able to learn the number of cases that have been diagnosed in Cuba.

The Deputy Minister of Public Health, Carilda Peña García, avoided giving exact figures and said that Latin America, between the first and the 32nd weeks of the year, an increase of 300%, and an increase of 165% compared to the figures of 2021, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). “[Cuba] is in the context of what is happening in the region,” she added, resolving the matter.

Determining the number of patients in Cuba seems impossible, since the Island has been talking about percentages and rates for several years. The Ministry of Public Health already indicated in its balance sheet last year that dengue had circulated in nine provinces and that “from the month of September, cases of dengue were reduced by 29.3% compared to 2020.” Without specific numbers, the dimension of the problem is unknown.

Despite the secrecy, the deputy minister did drop three important details. On the one hand, that the problem has only just begun, something she made clear when she warned that complicated months are coming. “It’s a difficult time, and we are moving towards the most complex period of the disease, because the cycle shows its highest peaks starting from the end of October and the beginning of November.”

A bad omen for the start of the high season for a tourism that is already on alert, after it has been revealed that, of the 100 cases of dengue reported this summer in Spain, two thirds had traveled to Cuba. In addition, of the 123 positives in France, 44 came from the Island, and in Florida there were 193 cases out of the total of 216 with the same origin.

The second news that came out in the middle of the extensive program was the severity of type 3, which predominates in Cuba, with 60% of the cases, something that the medical guild had already warned about. Guadalupe Guzmán, head of the Center for Research, Diagnosis and Reference of the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine, offered a whole historical and scientific class on the four types of dengue virus — all of which circulate on the Island — their combinations and which ones have been responsible for the worst epidemics in recent history. But the important fact was in a single sentence.

What the laboratory detects is not that all four are on an equal footing, but that dengue 3 is being detected in more than 60% of cases. This is the serotype of the virus that is causing the serious cases — even deaths — because we have had deaths from this disease,” she said. And again she left out the fundamental data, the number of deaths, which is broadcast only, with greater or lesser reliability, through social networks and is impossible for the independent press to verify.

The expert specified that young age, along with other pre-existing diseases, is a risk factor for dengue hemorrhagic fever, a figure consistent with the number of children who have been reported as deceased through Facebook.

The third piece of information that can be rescued from among so much verbiage was also given by the deputy minister, who unambiguously acknowledged that the Government has not been able to prevent the epidemic. “What really had to be done inside homes was not possible,” she said. And in a second and unusual gesture between the authorities, tending to accuse citizens of irresponsibility, she affirmed that the population “yes, showed signs of eliminating outbreaks of the vector in their homes. We know that it’s our responsibility and that it didn’t go as it should have,” she said.

Peña García specified that the highest infection rates — once again without data — are in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Las Tunas, Guantánamo, Camagüey, Matanzas and Isla de la Juventud. And they are followed by Holguín, which has had the highest numbers in previous weeks, Sancti Spíritus and Villa Clara.

In addition, she indicated that there are many infested workplaces, about 53 cases per week and that, if this trend continues, “the year will close with more than 300 where a focus was found due to the responsibility of the entire group,” she said, after recalling that water tanks are the main places of concentration of the mosquito.

“Today we are fumigating in 71 municipalities of the country, belonging to the provinces mentioned above,” she added. Resources, she pointed out, are imported and therefore scarce, but in addition, and as has been said in previous weeks, fuel is lacking and personnel are needed for the campaign to be carried out correctly.

Health deficiencies, in addition, are aggravating the situation, despite the fact that they were not mentioned yesterday by specialists. Many Cubans have reported through their social networks about the difficulties they go through to be diagnosed due to lack of reagents, and patients who arrive at the hospital often lack adequate treatment, not to mention those who don’t even want to go for fear of ending up admitted to centers where hygiene and good conditions are conspicuous by their absence, aggravating the risk of contagion.

While dengue keeps the population on alert without its real scope being known, the population continues to have access every day to information about the total number of people infected in Havana and the provinces, hospitalized, recovered and killed by Covid-19, a disease that continues to circulate, but that has lost its initial virulence.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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